Revealing Our Inmost Selves, Or Lessons in Vulnerability from Beneath the Planet of the Apes


Remember the dystopian sci-fi classic movie “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”?  If you were born in the 60s or 70s, especially if you were a guy, and it was scheduled, it was THE movie to watch on a Saturday night before you had the freedom of a driver’s license and $5 in your pocket (adjusted for deflation).

The first movie sequel features a really creepy scene in which the human population who escapes the inversion of the food chain are locked underground, evolving from a life exposed to, well, nuclear exposure, that develops their minds into wireless Cray computers, capable of very powerful manipulation and conjuring.  They then remove their “skins” to reveal their innermost selves. Yuk!

In a sense, that was a massive display of vulnerability!  Right down to the skin part.  So here’s where this is going:  leaders — you have strengths, and you have areas of less strength.  There’s truly value in letting the rest of us know this.  Why?  Because it shows a sense of your human side.  It lets us know what’s possible and where we can contribute to the journey.  Beyond the prerequisite quotas, KPIs, MBOs and other doody, I mean duties.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg states that we should think of vulnerability generally as an awareness or sense that you could be hurt. She breaks vulnerability down into non-conscious and conscious types.  Here, my perspective points to the conscious version.  This is where you are making a decision on whether or not you choose to open yourself up to being hurt. You’re taking a serious professional (or personal) risk in putting yourself out there.

When I create a workshop for leaders, I’m always amazed who shows up.  Who shows up in body, not mind or spirit.  Who shows up late and leaves early.  Who just doesn’t show at all!  Anecdotally the less they show up, the less vulnerable they play it.  Heaven forbid they “cop” to not knowing it all in front of their peers, let alone their teams.  It’s a real miss here.

The real question when deciding to be or not be consciously vulnerable boils down to whether or not you can handle the outcome.  This is a challenge because you can’t predict the outcome since you can’t predict the future.  It may go badly and you could be embarrassed or helpless.  Or, it could show you a new way, one where others see you as being at your most emotionally powerful, someone to notice and partner with to a better way forward.  Some of the “toughest” managers are really just not that tough.  Tough is being willing to hang it all out there, especially when you don’t have all the answers.  Especially when you are less capable than you or others think.  

Some may say it ended badly for the subterranean dwellers in the movie.  And maybe that’s true.  They did show their vulnerability a bit, and only to themselves.  When the time came to connect to others different from them in strengths, they chose to stay cloaked in their typical outward appearance. They were destroyed.  (As the story goes, the whole world was destroyed!) So what are you protecting when you move away from being consciously vulnerable?  It’s certainly not heroic.  Even Charlton Heston got it in the end. And that’s just not right.

I guide emerging sales professionals to build trust, become more relevant, and surpass their competitors, thereby creating the ultimate personal, professional, and financial success for them and their businesses.”  What could your next version of you, the emerging sales professional, be like if your approach was to focus on another’s agenda first? Here’s a link to start creating that discussion right now!


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